Translated by Priscila Santos, Luis Gonzaga Fragoso
and Jana Pietroluongo
Americanisation has not brought only bad things
to Brazil but also many good ones. Amongst these,
the music styles such as rock, jazz, blues, funk
and James Brown’s soul, which in the 70’s
took over the dance halls and made black people
from the favelas (shanty towns) dance, whilst the
country was going through a dictatorial regime.
black people fell in love with this American music style,
and amongst them there were MV Bill’s mother and
father who ended up meeting each other in a soul dance
that used to take place in the orphanage located in
the main Plaza of the shanty town known as City of God.
This place was recently made famous through the film
by the same name, which reported through fiction a bit
of this story. In that place is now located the CIEP
João Baptista – paying homage to a renowned
the time the trend was to dance like the Afro-Americans,
wearing the hair back combed (Afro style) with those
metal combs, showing the nice grooves, the dance contests,
the greetings…the soul women no longer straightened
their hair, the black saw themselves as beautiful people,
and all this happened through music and dance. On Saturdays
at the club, which now had been turned into a community
centre, the samba- canções made the couples
dance the nights away. On Sundays, soul music was played
– the soul from the black power movement. But
it was on this era of blacks and cocotas – beach
bums and babes from the favelas who listened to rock
music and bodysurfed – that the war between Mané
Galinha e Zé Pequeno started and grew up in the
City of God.
- CABEÇA DE PORCO
Bill was four years old at the time. The war started filling
with blood the streets places where he spent his childhood,
carving the walls of his flat with holes, killing his friends.
It forced Adauto Corcundinha (Adauto, the hunchback) to stop
working so the Samba School parades could take place in the
Plaza, and scared Severino’s forró and his people
away. The conflict made the heads of school suspend classes,
made dancers hang around other places, put an end to the black
movement and monopolized most of the cocotas.
was an extremely sad time, however nowadays the hip
hop movement, which brings together break music, rap
and graffiti, discusses racial, social and political
issues and is now accepted amongst communities all over
was the environment in which MV Bill was brought up and this
is widely depicted in his music. MV Bill preaches peace, and
argues in favour of other things other than the suffering
caused by wars, drugs, police, poverty…. His lyrics
show a belief that reading and the political consciousness
and solidarity that Brazilian citizens are often believed
to have, will transform themselves into an organized force
to fight the violence with which Brazilian society treats
its black and poor people. “Hip-hoppers want life to
improve, and that is the reason why the movement has already
taken a lot of young people away from the crime, made it possible
for many others to give up drugs and prevented a lot of people
from leading a life of delinquency… poverty can not
be seen as fate”
awareness comes to us through a music style which is the adaptation
of the eastern African way of talking while singing known
as Rapping linked to Jamaican music and its fusion in the
50’s with the dance flowing from the American ghetto’s
during the post-Vietnam war period. MV Bill has already played
partido-alto samba, he is into forró and samba-rock,
has defended his father’s (the legendary Mano Juca)
samba-enredo in the Samba party organized in the Grêmio
Recreativo Bloco Carnavalesco Coroado of Jacarepaguá.
However, he got hooked on rap and gave this style a Brazilian
outlook, innovating and blending it with classical music through
violins, wind instruments and the Brazilian percussion swing
guitar, enabling the national rap to be recognised worldwide.
Bill has been a frequent target on newspapers headlines
since 1998, as from the release of his 1st album CDD
Mandando Fechado, bringing to daylight issues from the
hood where he was born, raised and where he still lives
today. During the Free Jazz Festival, MV Bill was criticised
by the press when he presented himself wearing a gun
on his waist while performing the song Soldado do Morro
Lund, co-director of the film City of God, directed
MV Bills 1st video clip called Traficando Informação
(Trafficking Information) and was MTV’s VMB prize
nominee for best rap video clip and best directing.
2000 the police in Rio censored his clip Soldado do Morro
even before it had been released nationwide. The police opened
an inquiry to investigate an allegedly apology of organized
crime in the rapper’s clip. The clip was censored straight
after its first exhibition. Soldado do Morro had several favelas
in Rio de Janeiro as its setting, and shows images of gun
armed dealers and children working in the drugs traffic. The
clip was banned by the carioca authorities and forbidden in
all Brazilian TV stations. Bill’s only purpose was “to
show the reality hidden in our daily life”. When the
film City of God became successful, Bill created more kerfuffle
saying that the film would not be beneficial for the community
but only for the producers.
2002 time had come for the release of his 2nd album
Declaração de Guerra (Declaration of War)
and disclosure of the clip Só Deus pode me Julgar
(God only can judge me). This clip shows the birth of
a black baby from start to finish: the moment the mother
goes into the labour room, is examined by the doctor,
(the so-called, in Brazil, exam through touch), the
labour itself resulting in the baby’s birth.
It is shocking at first, but after watching it for a second
time it is actually quite natural due to the fact that it
is the birth of a child. The birth procedures are alternated
with images of Brasilia, the Senate, traffic and drugs. Só
Deus me Pode Julgar was nominated for the Video Music Brasil
Award in three categories: best rap clip, best clip of the
year and best edition.
controversy concerning MV Bill is related to the documentary
Falcão, os meninos do tráfico, (Falcão,
the boys from the drug trafficking) directed by MV Bill and
his producer Celso Athaide. The documentary would be shown
on the 30th anniversary of the TV programme Fantástico
on Rede Globo, but the authorization for its exhibition was
refused on the previous day despite all the media apparatus
involved. Different versions on why the exhibition of the
documentary had been cancelled were disclosed, however MV
Bill explained that the real reason was “the intention
to wait for a more appropriate time to show how young people
working in drug trafficking live in Brazil.” I thought
people reacted to this documentary in the wrong way”.
Bill made a point to stress that there was no problem at all
with the TV station.
the research for the documentary they visited several capitals
and also the local communities. “In Belém, for
example, the youngsters working in drug trafficking do it
with huge knives. Therefore we understand that if the weapons
change, people’s language and the drugs also change.
But these youngsters’ reality remains the same”,
Bill said. In the documentary, sixteen young people where
interviewed; fifteen of them died. “We filmed their
lives, heard these kids talking about their dreams and their
future. And then we would end up going back there afterwards
to film their funeral, because their own families would ring
us up letting us know they had died.”
aside the controversy caused by the misinterpretation of his
work, MV Bill has already had his work recognized worldwide,
having additionally received various awards for his performance
in the hip hop movement, as the UNICEF’s distinction
of the year in 2004, and in 2003, and as one of the most political
aware rappers for the past ten years, an award also given
by UNICEF. In the World Cultures Forum, which took place in
Barcelona in 2003, he received from the United Nations a document
that placed him side by side with artists from other countries:
the Citizen of the World award.
Bill is now working in the production of his next album
and in the publishing of the book Cabeça de Porco
(Pig Head an expression that is also a synonym of slum).
This book is result of a combined work carried out mainly
in two areas: interviews and filmings made by MV Bill
and his agent Celso Athayde in favelas of nine estates
in Brazil over the past 15 years, focussing on children
and young people who live in the world of crime, their
motivations and the human dimension of their lives.
To this original research told with the emotion of those
who watched dangerous situations in the front line,
were associated narratives by the anthropologist Luiz
A selection of ethnographical registers refined through the
past seven years, on youth, violence and the police forces.
These two projects crossed each other because both the interpretations
and the concerns were convergent. The authors then decided
to finalize their tasks with a compilation of qualitative
interviews made in 2003 by teachers Hélio Raimundo
Santos Silva and Miriam Guindani.
and MV Bill summarised the amount of social and cultural information
accumulated through their research in narratives, which they
preferred to write in the first person, in order to top up
their descriptions with experienced feelings and interpretations.
In a constant dialogue with the co-writers, Luiz Eduardo has
woven the fabric of the texts, trying to combine interpretations
with the most accurate images of real life experienced by
an uncountable number of characters, all of them genuine,
emerged in also real situations - although the names are fictitious
and the scenery slightly changed with the objective of protecting
their identities, as determined by the social research ethics.
In some cases he himself admitted to being the real protagonist
of the stories.
took his passage through governments as opportunities to observe
the revealed episodes of the subjective and social functioning
of violence and public insecurity. The book’s intent
is to shed a realistic light on the violence lived in Brazil.
Its aim is not to denunciate, but to share concerns and reflections,
in order to keep hope alive. The book has achieved a huge
repercussion in the Brazilian society, both in the main media
vehicles which thanks to the book have opened room for this
discussion amongst young people who live this reality, and
also amongst academic personalities who believe this book
will become a useful tool in helping people finding solutions
for the problems hitting the discriminated youth.
is certainly not a book that will change the reality of millions
of other young Brazilians, but MV Bill is certainly doing
his share, playing a role model for those who never believed
it would be possible for a young black guy from a favela to
achieve all that MV Bill has. He is a model for youngsters
in these poor communities as well as to the wealthy elite,
which by having violence knocking at their doors everyday
is forced to listen now to the voice that comes from the favelas.
MV Bill, the messenger of truth, knows that, and through his
words he has been changing many people’s lives, both
in the slum and in the asphalted city.